Saturday, April 22, 2017

Quiet Advantages: Two Books on Introverts

It's a surprise to exactly no one that I'm a natural introvert who can "behave" like an extrovert when necessary (ie, I prefer to recharge on my own and I work best in one-on-one or small group situations, but I don't shy away from addressing an entire room when my job calls for it). Because I love reading about myself and I've researched human behavior before, this wasn't news to me when I borrowed The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking from the library. I didn't read these books to decide whether or not I was an introvert, but to affirm my strengths and learn new ways to take advantage of the things I do best. One of these books did that better than the other, but both validated my quirks and reactions to the world around me.

(Note for those who aren't familiar with temperament definitions: introverts, in general, process things inwardly and are more easily stimulated by sights/sounds/smells, whereas extroverts are energized by outside stimulation and feel drained when they are alone or under-stimulated. This is a very basic explanation and I recommend reading this article to clarify where you fall on the temperament spectrum.)

The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert WorldThe Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started the audiobook version while waiting for the physical copy to come to my library, and when I finally read the text I was surprised at how much I remembered from listening. This isn't a complex book or intense guide on the advantages of introverts, but rather a feel-good (sometimes a little too "feel-good") collection of the ways introverts are just fine how they are.

First thoughts: I don't want to be referred to as an "innie" ever again in my life. Ew. Besides this off-putting terminology, I was underwhelmed with the author's choices. She treats introverts like fragile flowers who need constant pep talks and mental breaks.

Repetitive information: I'm guessing most people who come across this book already know they are introverts, so the checklists and surveys were unnecessary, and the author's insistence that introverts are okay, perfectly fine humans was a little over the top...we're reserved and introspective, not weak/sickly/fragile as the author hinted at.

Useful information: What I appreciated most was the author's suggestion to use body scans to check temperament and energy levels in the moment. I don't always check in with myself during the day, which can lead to wondering why I'm extra tired later on.

Recommended for: Honestly, don't read this if you're just learning about introversion/extroversion - check it out if you know yourself, but want a few extra tips for being introverted at work/in relationships/as a parent.

Final thoughts: More fluff than substance, but a good reminder to take care of myself when I'm out and about.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Based in research and with no shortage of scientific knowledge and character profiles, this book was more informational and interesting than a diluted self-help guide.

First thoughts: Quiet treats its readers like grown adults who want to learn more about the science behind temperaments. It's written for anyone interested in the topic, not just introverts.

Useful information:

  • We introverts naturally "pause to process surprising or negative feedback" which allows us to learn from it. We reflect on what goes wrong in a situation and avoid it in the future, whereas (typically) extroverts move past negative feedback to quickly to learn from it.
  • Introvert Powers: concentration, persistence, insight, sensitivity.
  • A lot goes on under the surface of an introvert's calm demeanor - we may appear to be "zoning out," but that's because we're spending our energy working on complex problems or processing the world around us, not on facial arrangement.

Favorite quotes:

"Sensitive types think in an unusually complex fashion."

"The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you've been granted."

Recommended for: Introverts who'd like extra help figuring out their strengths, extroverts who are confused about why their introverted friends/loved ones/coworkers need alone time, parents, teachers, and other caring adults who want to learn the best ways to allow their children/students to thrive.

Final thoughts: I've always been a lean on my strengths versus work on my weaknesses type of person, and this book helped me narrow in on the strengths I want to highlight as I transition out of teacher life and back into student life. I know what positives I bring to the workplace and to my own studies, but now I know how best to show others my strengths and skills so my full potential is realized.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Different Kind of Poetry

I hope no one needed me to remind them about Poetry Month this year - I decided not to write/post a poem each day here in lieu of something a little bit different. Instead, I'm participating in The 100 Day Project. It's a project that's usually art-driven, and meant to be shared (via Instagram, using #the100dayproject plus whatever other personal hashtag creators come up with), but I'm keeping mine mostly private. It won't end when Poetry Month does (or Photography Month), so it's not strictly poetic (or photographic).

If I had to make an original hashtag for my 100 days, it would be #100days100pages...or #100pages100changes. I started with everyone else (on April 4) and will continue to write one page in my journal each day for 100 days, ending mid-July. Those are my only rules. So far I've filled pages with all words, some words and lots of doodles, decorated quotes from role models, and bits and pieces from whatever day I'm documenting. It's not as artsy as some projects, and it's less focused on a beautiful product than others, but I knew when I started that I didn't want a lot of guidelines and I did want a detailed account of April-July 2017, a period of time that promises to be filled with so many changes.

Cheers to today, Day 15, and to 85 more days of writing, changing, and creating.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Get Some Headspace

Get Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a DayGet Some Headspace: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day by Andy Puddicombe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My week on Spring Break was all about headspace - I checked my work email exactly twice, and thought about it minimally beyond that. Instead of waking up already anxious about my days, I lingered in early morning dreams, took my time enjoying my coffee, and listened to audiobook on top of audiobook while cleaning, cooking, and rearranging furniture. It was amazing, but real life isn't like Spring Break. We need to fight for our headspace, and sometimes getting ten minutes of it in a day is a struggle. In Get Some Headspace, Andy Puddicombe walks his reader (or in this case, listener) through a few different mindful practices between stories of his journey to a mindful life.

First thoughts: I thought an audiobook version of a mindfulness manual would work well, considering you have to be pretty mindful to listen. I think I got better at concentrating as the book went on, but it was a struggle for me to stop fidgeting/multitasking/reading other things (yes, I know) and just listen.

Mindful thoughts: I need meditation time. I am bad at carving out meditation time. Or mindful time. Or any time that's not eating/sleeping/phone scrolling...it's a continuous process. Listening made me mindful of how distracted I am. Puddicombe's advice in this situation? Think less about my worries and more about other people's happiness - if I'm finding a few mindful moments with the knowledge that it'll be better for those around me, I'll have an easier time separating myself and quieting my mind.

Favorite (paraphrased) key thoughts:

Meditation shines a light on how you think - and it's not always pretty.
Your mind is like the sky: it's always blue, even when there are clouds. Our minds remain constant, even when things get cloudy. Meditation isn't about clearing the skies, or making blue skies out of gray, but allowing the mind to be in its natural state.

Recommended for: any and all - and if an entire audiobook/book on mindfulness isn't your thing, check out Puddicombe's Headspace app for ten-minute guided meditations.

Final thoughts: While listening got easier, my brain will always work better with visual cues, especially for chapter breaks. Puddicombe's voice is calming, and his down-to-earth explanations are accessible and relatable.


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Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Weekend in DC

Things that make a great vacation:

  • Options for activities, including no activity at all
  • A knowledgeable host
  • Great food
  • Naps
Escaping from Chicago for four days was exactly what I needed, and choosing Washington, DC as our travel destination was a great choice - I had never been as an adult, Jesus hadn't been in several years, and we had great hosts to both house us and take us to a bunch of fun spots around town. We ate at Ted's Bulletin (homemade Pop-Tarts!), Sudhouse (patio seating & games!), and Rakuya (happy hour sushi!). We drank at The Board Room (board games and beer!) and Drafthouse (free comedy!). We went to a Japanese festival and the Cherry Blossom Parade. We visited four museums and three parks, saw a drum circle, and rode the Metro like locals. We even fit in a short snooze on the National Mall. It was a solid Spring Break getaway.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Seeing

SeeingSeeing by José Saramago
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This sort-of sequel to Saramago's earlier work, Blindness, takes things to a more political level, but there's still plenty of philosophy and a few favorite characters make comebacks.

First thoughts: I get that the run on sentences are part of it all, but man do they make this a s-l-o-w read. It's mental gymnastics sometimes, and early on I missed the familiarity of Blindness. The dry humor and my curiosity carried me through until it picked up/I got used to the style again.

Favorite quotes:

"...not only does the universe have its own laws, all of them indifferent to the contradictory dreams and desires of humanity..., but everything seems to indicate that it uses these law for aims and objectives that transcend and always will transcend our understanding..."

"Languages are conservative, they always carry their archives with them and hate having to be updated."

"...truths need to be repeated many times so that they don't, poor things, lapse into oblivion."

Conversations thoughts: There were a lot of pretend/practiced conversations in this book that never actually came to fruition - characters would act out what they would say/would have said in certain situations for pages before admitting the reason why they couldn't/didn't say those words. I don't have anything enlightening to add except that this happened on enough occasions for me to notice, and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who does this at length.

Recommended for: thinkers and ponderers, fans of long translations, poetic phrases that last several pages, or complex philosophical hypotheticals, anyone who wants to know what happens when a population refuses to participate in democracy.

Final thoughts: I'm glad I didn't wait too long after Blindness to read this companion piece, and I enjoyed the mental workout it gave me. The words/phrases/chapter-long sentences truly are a work of art.


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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Watching, Listening, Reading

The sky was blue for about 20 minutes yesterday, but otherwise it's been a long rainy week here in Chicago. We're so close to Spring Break - each gray morning is another reminder of how much we all need some time away. Summoning the motivation to do anything other than curl up on the couch after work is getting more and more difficult. Luckily, I've found enjoyment and escape in a few different forms of entertainment:

Prison Break: IT'S BACK, PEOPLE. (Obvious spoilers to anyone who never watched the original show.) Yes, eight years after the finale, Prison Break 2.0 dares to ask the question we were all wondering: What if Michael didn't die? This nine episode "sequel" premiered yesterday and with close to 4 million viewers, it looks like fans are on board with whatever intense/complex/far-fetched storyline writers and producers have up their sleeves. I certainly am - seeing Lincoln, Dr. Tancredi, C-Note, T-Bag, Sucre, and Michael back on my TV screen is nostalgia I'm down for.

S-Town: What a strange and beautiful podcast. I went into it thinking I'd hear about an unsolved mystery, or at the very least the shady workings of a small town in Alabama, and I ended with a greater understanding of my humanity. S-Town (Shit Town) tells the story of a creative, tortured, and one-of-a-kind genius, with forays into the lives of other characters and descriptions of places and situations I'm completely unfamiliar with. Since all seven episodes are available, this podcast listens more like an audiobook than a series with weekly installments, but pace yourselves nonetheless.

Yes Please: Speaking of audiobooks, I had a hunch that listening to Amy Poehler read her own book would be worth not having something physical to hold/page through/look back on to find perfectly witty nuggets of advice and I wasn't wrong. Poehler reads like she means it - because she does. No droning or monotone voices here, just a lifelong writer/improviser bringing her own words to life before my very ears.

All These Wonders: If this collection of "True Stories About the Unknown" from the Moth is as enchanting as the cover and Neil Gaiman's foreword, I've got some wonderful reading ahead of me. Gaiman writes, "Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything." I mean, c'mon.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The City of Your Final Destination

City of Your Final DestinationCity of Your Final Destination by Peter Cameron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story about leaving home to find yourself and change the direction of your life. TCOYFD has plenty of mystery, believable characters, and intricate relationship dynamics.

First thoughts: The actual reading of this book was enjoyable - so many poetic turns and characters I could root for and understand. It reminds me of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and, in a strange way, the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona - stories of travel, lives changed by art, love triangles.

Favorite quotes (there are a lot):

"Champagne is never a mistake." -Caroline, p75

"Why does traveling, coming far, excite us? Has it to do with what we leave behind or with what we encounter?" -Caroline, p77

"I will behave like a normal person for as long as I possibly can." -Omar, p79

"The thing is not to let being scared stop you from doing the right thing, or from getting the things you want. That is what makes us cowards." -Adam, p105

"There is a way that people displace their attention to one another onto the landscape that, when done simultaneously, is sometimes an effective and satisfying substitute for communication." -p106

"You must live your life as if you are the hero of a novel. You must always do something interesting, always earn your space on the page. It is very hard to live one's life like that. Novels are so deceitful in that way: they leave so much out. The years of tedium, of happiness perhaps, but tedious happiness. Or tedious unhappiness." -Adam, p179

"And so we sat there, saying nothing, and our chance was lost." -Adam, p244

"I'm twenty-eight years old and I don't know what I want to do. I don't know what I can do. I don't know anything." -Omar, p266-267 (This quote is perhaps the reason why the book resonated so much with me!)

Recommended for: travelers, homebodies, wanderers who may or may not be lost, lovers, fighters, poets, dreamers, and doers.

Final thoughts: Filled with beautiful imagery and phrases, this book was romantic, sad, and sweet. I loved finding out the "final destination" of all the characters.


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Monday, March 27, 2017

Chicago History Musuem

Why have I never been here before?! The Chicago History Museum is interactive, educational, and a fun time for this transplant and her native fiance.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of HattieThe Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a book. A beautiful, sad, joyous, expansive tale of a mother and her children, told over the course of all of their lives.

First thoughts: I loved the format - a chapter for each of Hattie's children (tribes). We get to see glimpses of Hattie at various stages of motherhood, and we delve into a defining moment of each child's life. Using the titles of each chapter (years and the children's names) we piece together a family portrait spanning several generations. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is like a collection of connected short stories, each one a unique literary treat.

Favorite quotes:

"It seemed to him that every time he made one choice in his life, he said no to another." -Lawrence, p78

"It seemed to him that he could never get a proper grip on any of the beauty in this world." -August, p87

"They didn't understand that all the love she had was taken up with feeding them and clothing them and preparing them to meet the world. The world would not love them; the world would not be kind." - Hattie, p236

Recommended for: Everyone should read Ayana Mathis's first novel (and wait eagerly for her next one!).

Final thoughts: Reading The Twelve Tribes of Hattie was the kind of reading experience all readers want - easy without being boring, entertaining without being farcical, and meaningful without being preachy.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

Something Just Like This

It's light outside when I get home, all I need is a light jacket, and I didn't wake up feeling exhausted. Spring, you're okay. (I know the weather might not agree with the calendar all the time, but we're getting to mild/warm temps little by little.)

Need a pick me up, or not feeling the same way I am about Spring? (Maybe allergies are ruining your life - they're a clear drawback to the season.) Give this song a listen and imagine yourself lounging at a sidewalk cafe, strolling through a park, or driving along some beautiful scenery.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Some Light Wedding Reading

Did anyone think I would approach marriage and wedding planning  with anything other than intense research? Besides a few blogs (that I've been following for longer than the four months I've been engaged), I also searched out and was gifted (thanks MOH!) a few books that grounded me in the wedding planning process and reminded me that I'm neither the first nor last bride to need some guidance.

A Practical Wedding

A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful CelebrationA Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration by Meg Keene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having been a fan of the blog that inspired this book for a few years now (they're more of a wedding & lifestyle & fun things blog than strictly a wedding blog), I was excited to read what Meg Keene had to say about the practical approach to wedding planning. I wasn't disappointed - it was a quick read and this book is definitely one I can see myself referencing throughout the planning process (if the post-it bookmarks are to be trusted, that is).

First & Final Thoughts: Filled with lots of good information, yes, but more importantly this book is filled with reminders that it's going to all work out, a wedding will happen, and the only thing that really truly matters is I'm getting married to my person.

The Perfect Day

One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American WeddingOne Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The subtitle says it all: "The Selling of the American Wedding." From the moment Jesus and I announced our engagement, there was always someone ready to sell us something. Any advertising I see online is now for wedding bands, honeymoons, dresses, photography, or any number of "things" one needs to get married. They all have the same message - buy these things to set your wedding apart, buy these things to make sure you have a traditional wedding, buy these things to show your guests how much you care about them.

First Thoughts: This book was both depressing (the wedding industry is scary, y'all) and empowering (THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A TRADITIONAL BRIDE).

Favorite quotes:

"All traditions are invented." -p58

"It is, in many ways, harder to invent yourself than to have your course mapped out for you." -p73

"What if every wedding was a cherished victory won?" -p230 (I feel like mine will be, not only because of the life partner I'm winning, but because our marriage wouldn't have been possible even 50 years ago. It's a personal and cultural victory.

Final thoughts: I got the feeling Mead herself was one of the "bad brides" that the wedding industry fears because she doesn't buy into it, and I'm with her, to a point. I do want my wedding to feel both unique and classy, to reflect mine and Jesus's tastes while also being familiar enough as a wedding to not make people uncomfortable. Knowing what goes on behind the scenes helps to navigate the needs/wants/unneccessaries of wedding planning, and to put the whole thing in context.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

March Madness

The real madness of this month:

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Color is Your Parachute (2017 Edition)

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-ChangersWhat Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With plenty of visuals, online resources, worksheets, and an organized layout, Bolles guides job hunters and career changers through the process of researching employers, building resumes, and interviewing. The backbone of his manual, "The Flower," provides a framework for creating an accurate picture of who the reader is as a potential employee.

First thoughts: I was excited, energized, and overwhelmed. Bolles writes conversationally, which helped make reading this easy on the brain, but the subject matter is both technical and emotional, so I found myself skimming chapters that didn't necessarily apply to my situation or putting off reading chapters that seemed to understand me all too well.

Favorite quotes:

"So it is, that in any situation you find yourself, no matter how overwhelmed you may feel, no matter how much you may feel you're at the mercy of huge forces that are beyond your control, some part of it is within your control." -p47

"You are a person, not a job." -p115

"The more you see your own gifts clearly, the more you must pay attention to the gifts that others have." -p239

Best tip: YOU are the given, the common denominator in your job search. So focus on yourself and what you offer. Think of yourself as a resource to any potential employer. --> This is something quickly forgotten in the drudgery of job hunting, and something I, personally, want to be more intentional about in future job hunts.

Recommended for: job hunters and career changers, employers and employees, college grads and retirees.

Final thoughts: My brother read this book and got a job almost immediately afterwards. The book motivated him, gave him new ideas about how to job search, and made the entire process more of a puzzle to solve than an impossible challenge. I, on the other hand, read the book over the course of 4 months, in fits and starts as I was feeling up to it. I wanted to read it completely (doing each of the worksheets), but in the end I had to pause on those and just keep reading, or I would have been stuck on certain sections for too long. I'd advise any would-be readers to know themselves and their reading style, then use the book as a tool in whatever way best suits you. Not feeling a chapter? Skip it. Bolles agrees - Parachute is a reference, not a required read.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Blind Assassin

The Blind AssassinThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A slow burn novel within a novel, set in a fantasy land and past and present day Canada - this book takes time, but it's worth it.

First thoughts: I wasn't gripped right away, but rather teased and intrigued - I wanted to see where the past met the present telling, and I wanted to know what happened in the sci-fi novel within the novel.

Favorite quotes:

"...some people can't tell where it hurts. They can't calm down. They can't even stop howling." -p2

"God didn't make everyone the same, otherwise he would just get bored of it all, and so he dished things out unevenly. It didn't seem fair, but it would come out fair at the end." -p88

"Better not to invent her in her absence. Better to wait until she's actually here. Then he can make her up as she goes along." -p276

"The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date." -p283

"So much better to travel than to arrive." -p290

"I will always remember this, she tells herself. Then: Why am I thinking about memory? It's not then yet, it's now. It's not over." -p341

Recommended for: women, writers, women writers, sisters, Atwood fans.

Final thoughts: I'm glad I stuck with this book - the ending was a good payoff. The mystery of each part kept me guessing throughout, and once I finally "got it" it was worth it.


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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day


I couldn't strike, but I showed my support with my outfit and, you know, by teaching tomorrow's women all about resistance. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As one of the highest rated books on my to-read list, The Help is entertaining and (still) has lots to say about race relations in America. It's not the end-all be-all, but definitely now a part of the culture of America with 1.5 million ratings on Goodreads, an Oscar-nominated & winning movie counterpart, and numerous pop culture references (seen most recently on SNL).

First thoughts: While I enjoyed this book, I was constantly aware that it was written by a white woman and I kept that in mind throughout, as a sort of reading lens. The book is aware of itself, though, as seen in these passages...

"I must be crazy, giving the sworn secrets a the colored race to a white lady." -Minny, p217

"A white lady do things different than a white man." -Aibileen, p256

"Look at you. Another white lady trying to make a dollar off of colored people." -Gretchen, p258

White Lady thoughts: I'm so glad Stockett put voice to the thoughts I was having, and that while she specifically had black characters narrate parts of the book, she seemed aware of the problems this could raise. I'm also glad that the movie takes it a step further and has Aibilieen's character narrate the entire thing - in that way she tells her own story, and we hear from black characters both first and more often than from white characters. Small things, but they make a difference.

More about the book: The length of The Help allows the reader to really sink into the world of Jackson's residents, get to know their motivations, and really feel the anxieties of each of the characters who narrate. It's a compelling story with plenty of conflict and emotions both light and heavy.

Favorite quotes (from Stockett's afterward, "Too Little, Too Late"):

"I was scared, a lot of the time, that I was crossing a terrible line, writing in the voice of a black person." -p450

"Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought." -p418

Final thoughts: If you're one of the few who haven't yet read The Help, you might as well join the club.


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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Getting Some Headspace

My Lenten challenge this year (and always): mindfulness. This space is filled with posts about ways I've attempted, sought out, and reached mindfulness in different areas of my life, but it's a lifetime challenge and something I need specifically in this season (The Going Back to School, Planning a Wedding, and Finding a Job All at the Same Damn Time Season).

Mindfulness is at the front of my brain right now partially because I'm co-teaching a class on it - aka, two qualified volunteers are teaching mindfulness and I'm making sure the kids aren't giggling with their friends or throwing paper airplanes while they're supposed to be meditating. If we adults think sitting silently and letting our thoughts wander is difficult, middle schoolers find it absolutely terrifying. When we plan each lesson, we think of how it would feel to be a kid doing each activity - our classroom is a no judgment zone, but we still don't want to do anything to make anyone anxious or embarrassed.

Outside of school/work, I've also started listening to an audiobook on mindfulness, Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe. Some of you may have heard of his free app, Headspace, which I'm also sort of trying out, but I want to finish the book first - and I've found that even listening to an audiobook for ten minutes at a time is challenging. Listening without some sort of visual aid doesn't come easily to me, but it's a skill I want to develop and audiobooks or guided meditations seem like the best way to practice.

If anyone has any other tips or tricks to just being without thinking, I'm all ears. Until then, I'll learn by doing - day-by-day and about 10 minutes at a time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

13th

"From slave to criminal with one amendment" is the subtitle to the Oscar- nominated Netflix documentary, 13th. There's no better way to describe how the United States treats and has historically treated minority populations and this film by director Ava DuVernay does a perfect job of elaborating the role the 13th amendment plays in preserving racial inequality in America, specifically in America's prison system.

From 1970 to today, the prison population in the United States has gone from 200,000 to 2 million, largely as a result of legislature claiming to "crack down" on crime. The criminalization of certain behaviors, the enforcement of Jim Crow laws, and most recently the "war on drugs" have all been used to disguise the perpetuation of slavery. Now, with mass incarceration and the corporate prison industry, businesses are making large amounts of money through "legal" slavery and the cycle of racial control continues. Featuring public figures, academics, and activists of all political leanings, DuVernay tells the story of slavery's economics, past and present.

This was not an easy movie to watch, but it's a necessary one - both for viewers who know the system isn't broken (it was built this way), and for viewers who may not even realize the extent to which our laws and criminal justice system unfairly target people of color. We can't fight injustice we aren't aware of, and we don't always see injustice that doesn't directly impact us, but it's on us to educate ourselves so that we know what challenges we're facing as a country.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Mercy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Mercy tells the story of Florens, a slave girl given as payment to a Northern trader, Jacob. Readers hear Florens tell her own story with input from other voices in her new life so we get different perspectives on the events that transpire on Jacob's farm.

First thoughts: While a relatively quick read, it took me a few different points of view to get into the story. I'm glad the narrators changed throughout the story because that helped me check that I understood what was happening. Morrison conjures a multitude of emotions with sparse language, using perfect phrases and nothing extra.

Favorite quote: "What I know is there is magic in learning." p163

Recommended for: Anyone not sure what to read next, needing something brief yet powerful.

Final thoughts: While I kept hoping for just a bit more character description, there was no shortage of poetic imagery. There is a tension between emotion and plot that Morrison navigates expertly. She is one of the greats for a reason.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Free Museum February

Chicago/Illinois people: the Field Museum is free all February! Go find something new there, like the creative additions to the Native American exhibit, or pay for the upgrade to see the temporary Tattoo exhibit (the exhibit is temporary...not the tattoos). Whatever you do, take advantage of living in a city with a vibrant museum culture.